Saturday, November 23, 2013


My son and I have just returned to the farm from Starkville, where we attended the wedding of my nephew Ben and his new wife Emily. It's always fun to have a crowd of family around, especially for a happy occasion. This was especially joyful because Emily is an amazing young woman who is multi-talented, accomplished and successful. Even better, she loves Ben with the most
steadfast, persevering love I've ever seen. 

Instead of the usual unity candle, they had a covenant signing. In the presence of the witnesses assembled, Ben and Emily not only verbally promised a committment that could be broken only by death, but they signed a beautifully printed covenant agreement that also contained their written vows. Everyone who attended was asked to sign as witnesses and as their commitment to encourage and support the new couple. It took the sacred vows a step further by including the attendees as party to the committment. 

Dating, falling in love, getting engaged, and planning a wedding are the easy parts of the life they will have together. I hope it will all be as lovely and joy-filled as today has been. Unfortunately, the reality of relationships is that some times are better than others, and some times are just plan hard. That's why I prayed for them what the apostle Paul prayed for the Colossians: that theirs hearts would be knitted and tied together by strong cords of love. That way, their hearts will be united and it will be much harder to break their own heart in hard times. 

The minister talked about the need for Ben to treat Emily with the same sacrificial love Christ showed for the church. When marriage works like it's supposed to, people can see such a clear picture of Christ that they are drawn to Him. That's another thing I've prayed for this sweet young couple, that their love will draw many people to Jesus. 

It's a tall order for two young people, but I know that the Christ in them is up to the challenge. Tonight, I'm inviting you to join my in praying a blessing for Ben and Emily. Thy will be done, Lord, and help them stay out of Your way and right in the center of Your will. 

Come to think of it, that's what we should be praying for ourselves too!

Happy thanksgiving, dear readers!

Healing the Fever - part five

And standing over her, He rebuked the fever, and it left her; and she immediately got up and waited on them. (Luke 4:39 NASB)

My maxim for patients with fever is to remain off work or out of school until they have been free of fever for at least twenty-fours. It allows a little time to be sure the patient is no longer contagious and allows the patient a little recovery time after the illness abates. It's standard medical care. Peter's mother-in-law, however, did not receive standard medical care, she received Divine medical care. She did not waste a minute, let alone 24 hours, after her fever subsided.  She did not loll about in bed while people celebrated her improvement and she didn't run about proclaiming that Jesus had healed her. She hopped out of bed and went to work, ministering to the needs of her guests.  She demonstrated what God had done for her by her enthusiastic service. She was the epitome of "saved to serve". Hers is an example we would do well to emulate. 

Jesus and Peter were, of course, perfectly capable of finding food for themselves, but they were guests in her home. I can't imagine much worse than having Jesus in my house for lunch while I was stuck in the bed, unable to feed Him all my carefully prepared dishes. It would have been a tragic missed opportunity to become better acquainted with the visiting Savior. 

It's not always physical illness that causes us to miss opportunities to become better acquainted with Jesus and develop a deeper relationship with Him, is it?  Most of the time, we are ABLE to come to our Lord, but we choose not to do so. Yuck. That sounds awful, doesn't it? I'd like to think that it's those times of busyness when I'm likely to stray away, but that's not true. Generally speaking (at least for this sinner) a wrong attitude leads to wrong words or, even worse, wrong words and wrong actions, and I immediately feel terrible. I'm pretty quick to ask for forgiveness but I'm not always quick to change my attitude, which is where true repentance begins. 

Somehow, in that jumble of sin, I don't really want to approach the throne of mercy and grace, when that is the main thing I need. The problem with that very stupid hesitation is that it can easily become the starting point for more wrong. Here's my suggestion (really, it's God's): when we draw near to God and ask Him to forgive and cleanse, He is quick to do so. He is also extremely nice about it!  There's no need for missed opportunities at all!

Today, look at your own life. Are you missing opportunities to know Jesus better? If so, take action. You will be so glad you did. 

Pray today that the choices our loved ones make will not push them further from Christ, but that they will draw near to Him. Pray for an end to missed opportunities and a return to full relationship and joyful service.  

Friday, November 22, 2013

Healing the fever part 4

And standing over her, He rebuked the fever, and it left her; and she arose and waited on them. (Luke 4:39 NASB)

She arose. Anestemi. The Greek word translated "arose", anestemi, ( can also be translated "got up". The interesting thing is that it is also the same word used to indicated "rise from the dead ".  

The way I see this verse, Peter's mother-in-law had intended to entertain Jesus as well as her son-in-law and whoever they brought along. A terrible fever left her prostrate in the bed, unable to serve. It stopped her in her tracks and no ministry was possible until this illness was resolved. In a way, she was dead to service (and very nearly dead and in the grave). When Jesus came, He rebuked the fever, it left, and she arose, just as one who rises from the grave. He restored her physical health, but He also restored her life of service. 

There is no indication at all that she had a sin sickness. She had a physical fever. The "fever" of sin can, however, stop us in our tracks and end all service to the Kingdom of God. I've been there, and you may have been, too. With a word (Forgiven), Jesus can enter our situation, bring healing, and restoration. We can be useful in the Kingdom of God again, and so can our loved ones.  They can be faithful servants of the Most High God, regardless of how unlikely that seems today. 

Today, pray that Christ will intervene in our hearts and in the hearts of our loved ones, bringing healing and restoration of service in the way only He can accomplish. 

Thursday, November 21, 2013

The Unexpectedly Grateful Heart -part 19

Today was grooming day and check-up day for Maggie the Wonder Dog. We were in line behind a man holding what I thought was a lop-eared rabbit. I'm very fond of lops (and, in fact, used to raise them, which is a story for another day) so I moved a little closer to get a better look at the bunny. I overheard the man telling the receptionist that they didn't have time for her and were thinking about finding her a new home. My first thought was, "How much time does a rabbit require?"

There was a lull in their conversation, so I leaned in to see the bunny. As I did, I realized it had a very odd nose that looked nothing at all like a bunny nose. "Oh, how cute!" I said, as I began to wonder exactly what kind a creature he was holding. "What kind is she?" I asked, hoping to get a clue from his answer. "She's a toy poodle," he said. I was speechless. I couldn't even tell it was a dog! 

This little fur ball is not a perfect fit with the lifestyle of her owners, but they love her. It may be that she needs a little more attention and they need a less high-maintenance pet. I was astonished when someone said, "if you are serious about finding her a new home, I might take her." What was the most astonishing was that the volunteer adopter was me! I reached out for the fur ball and she snuggled in. Maggie gave her a good sniffing over and seemed content. 

I'm not sure Maggie wants a sister, but that little fur ball probably needs one. For sure, she needs a second chance at a happy home. We won't know until next week, but for now Maggie the Wonder Dog and I think we may be expecting! It's exciting and scary all at the same time. 

Tonight, I'm grateful for second chances. I'm grateful for the kind of second chance the little fur ball may get, with a new and less hectic family, but also the second chance when I've totally messed up and need forgiveness. Over the years, I've needed those second chances far too often. There's something wonderful about mercy, not giving me what I deserve when I mess up, but oh the grace of a second chance that gives me so much better than I deserve! Mercy and grace. I'm thankful for them, too. 

Perhaps you've needed some second chances of your own along the way. Maybe you, like me, have needed that priceless mercy and grace. The One who dispenses both so freely deserves our thanks and praise. Let's not forget the Source of those gifts, as well as all the other blessings we enjoy, and let's be sure we offer thanks with a grateful heart. 

Happy Thanksgiving!

Healing the fever part 3

And He arose and left the synagogue, and entered Simon's home. Now Simon's mother-in-law was suffering from a high fever; and they made request of Him on her behalf. (Luke 4:38 NASB)

Isn't that a nice phrase? "They made request of Him on her behalf"? More "modern" translations say, "they asked Him to help her."  She was burning up with fever, possibly in deadly peril from her illness, and her guests had just arrived. She was not at the synagogue that day, and had not seen Jesus cast out the demon. She may not have heard Jesus speak nor seen Him do miracles, but it is likely she knew He was coming. We don't know whether she believed He was the Messiah nor whether she thought He could heal her.  She may not have believed in Him at all. What we know is that, in the throes of an acute but severe illness, she did not ask Him to help her. It was "they" who intercedes for her that eventful day and it was in response to their request that Jesus brought healing. 

That is a great comfort and encouragement to me as we pray. It is not necessary for the ones for whom we pray to ask Jesus to help nor for them to believe in Him in order to receive His help. He will move in response to our request. 

Today, pray boldly that our Lord will take note of our loved ones and their current situation and "make request of Him on their behalf".  Be assured that, when we ask Him to help, He will. 

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Unexpectedly Grateful Heart part 18

The copy of my new book arrived today and it was exciting to see my words on those pages in black and white.  It's hard to believe that those quick text messages sent as a call to morning prayer have turned into a full book. As I turned through the pages, I realized once more how much I enjoy writing. Oddly enough, I enjoy writing, even if no one is reading. When writing is combined with formatting, editing, and designing, it is my absolute favorite thing to do!

I was pondering using a story from my archives for tonight's post, so I started flipping through Dropbox files. You will not believe what I found! Even I don't really believe it. I have already written another book, called Lessons From the Harvest. It's full of farm stories and brought back such sweet memories! What fun it will be to finish formatting and bring the book all the way to publication! I really like the stories, and hope you will all enjoy them, too. 

It's funny how surprises will pop up, like the book, at the most unexpected times. Even though I wrote the book and lived the stories, they were fresh and new to me and they felt like a gift of the past, refreshing and joy-filled. Tonight I'm thankful for those expected gifts that bring such joy, the satisfaction I receive from a job well done, and the pleasure that comes from doing work I love. 

Healing the fever, part two (Luke 4:38)

Then He got up and left the synagogue, and entered Simon's home. Now Simon's mother-in-law was suffering from a high fever, and they asked Him to help her. (Luke 4:38 NASB)

It appears from this verse that Jesus went to Simon's mother-in-law's house as a guest after the synagogue service, much as we might entertain a visiting preacher today. It was after He arrived there that He was told of her illness. Since the house is referred to as belonging to Simon's mother-in-law, it is easy to assume that Simon Peter was already a disciple, but he was not. He had almost certainly heard of Jesus, but he was not a learned scholar, nor accustomed to seeing the miraculous.  He was not called as a disciple until Luke 5.  He was a fisherman, more accustomed to nighttime fishing, heavy nets, and hard manual labor than the divine. 

This particular day was the Sabbath, so his fishing boat was docked and the nets were still. For this one day, Simon was also still. He likely attended the synagogue service and saw Jesus cast out the demon. Can't you just imagine the thoughts racing through the mind of this burly worker?  Synagogue had never been this exciting before!

When they arrived at His mother-in-law's house, Peter must have felt so excited. Instead of visiting in the home of a scholar, Jesus was coming to his house! He probably wanted everything to be perfect for the Teacher, and hoped to impress Him. That plan went horribly awry when they arrived to find their hostess in bed and terribly ill. 

It must have been Simon, ever impetuous, who saw his mother-in-law, remembered the demon that had been cast out minutes before, and asked, "Can you help?" Could Jesus help? Yes, indeed. He not only helped, He healed her. 

It turned out that Simon would not impress Jesus that day. Jesus impressed Simon. That was, however, not the day that Simon put down his nets and followed Jesus. It might have been the beginning of his relationship with Christ, and it might have been the point when he began to believe, but it was not the moment when he relinquished control of his heart and life to Jesus. That would come later. 

Starting points are important road markers in our journey of faith. Do you remember those times that played a role in bringing you to Christ? Our loved ones will have, and likely already have had, starting points that direct them along the road to Christ. Today, pray that the divine will invade their lives, just as Jesus did for Simon, and for those divine road signs to point the way to Christ in unforgettable and unassailable clarity. Pray that redemption will be as close for them as it was for Simon on that eventful day. 

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Unexpectedly grateful heart part 17

Have I mentioned how excited I am about my new book? The Road to Bethlehem is a daily devotional and prayer guide based on the first two chapters of Luke. It was written originally for a group of parents who were praying for their children, and has been reformatted as a devotional guide. Sometimes I look at the insights and think, "How did I write that?  How did I even know that?" Of course, the answer is the same as always. It was the Still Small Voice that whispers in my heart. 

It's my first e-book and is available for Kindle on Amazon. You can expect to hear more about it later. 

What I'm especially excited about is that the paperback version of The Road to Bethlehem is now available. I have boxes of books ordered, but they are not scheduled to arrive for two more weeks. As you can imagine, I really want to see my book NOW! 

I hit upon a perfect solution. I ordered my book from Amazon, and got it with Amazon prime, so there was free shipping. This sounds really crazy but the boxes of books are purchased directly from my printer, and the book I ordered from Amazon is sort of purchased from myself. Of course, Amazon can't tell that, so I had to pay myself a royalty!  That's not too bad since the buyer is paying the seller and the buyer IS the seller, but is still a little surreal.  You can tell, I'm determined to get a book in my hands. 

I hurried home from work today, expecting to find my book. No package in the mailbox. No package on my doorstep. Thanks to Amazon, I could track my package. The craziest thing happened. My book was shipped to Memphis, then shipped out to Jackson MS!! They drove right past my house to take it to Jackson (hours away) so they can bring it back to me tomorrow! That does not seem sensible to me, especially when I want to see the book tonight.  

This is my first attempt at print on demand publishing, and it's very different.  My first book took what seemed like forever to finish. There were proofs to check and paper to touch, designs to modify and approve. This modern bookmaking is totally different and very amazing. Everything can be done online and adjusted instantly. It's extremely efficient, though not nearly as artistic. It moves very quickly. Before, when the book went to the printer, I knew for sure it looked like it wanted it to look. This time, I will find out how it looks when  it arrives. 

With my first book, the boxes that arrived were anticlimactic, because I already knew what it looked like. When that book arrives tomorrow, you can bet it will be very exciting! Here's the really hard thing about tomorrow, though. I have a meeting after work! I'm going to have to anticipate all through work, then anticipate some more. 

Anticipation. It's really nice, and adds considerable spice to the waiting. It's one of the things I am grateful for today. I'm grateful for surprises, anticipation, hopes and dreams fulfilled. I'm grateful to order instantly, ship overnight, and track packages. I'm grateful for the modern conveniences that make it so much easier for me to live this wonderfully rural, country-girl life of mine. 

What are you grateful for today? What makes your life easier? What do you enjoy? Don't forget the Source of every good and perfect gift, and be sure to say thank you to the One who makes it possible. 

Happy thanksgiving!

Healing Simon's mother-in-law (Luke 4:38)

Then He got up and left the synagogue, and entered Simon's home. Now Simon's mother-in-law was suffering from a high fever, and they asked Him to help her. (Luke 4:38 NASB)

The journey from the synagogue to Simon's mother-in-law's house is only a few yards in a straight line from the steps of the synagogue. Jesus went directly from the synagogue to her house. After He arrived there, He found that she was very ill with a high fever. There were no antibiotics and no acute care clinics. For a high fever of whatever cause, the treatment was, for the most part, cool compresses, some herbal remedies, and time. When Jesus arrived and found that she was sick, the people there asked Him to help, and, of course, He did. 

What I want us to see today is that Jesus responded with help when He was asked. He didn't tell them they should have called Him sooner. He did not rebuke them for failing to recognize that she was ill earlier. He did not ask them what remedies they had tried. He did not even say that His mission statement clearly said that He was here for preaching, releasing captives and the downtrodden, and restoring sight to the blind, and not healing the sick. He did none of that. When asked for help, He gave it freely. 

There is no evidence that the request for help came with specific instructions. There was not a request to bring the temperature down to 98.6 degrees. They simply asked for help and left the decision about what kind of help to Jesus. 

Our loved ones may not be serving our Lord for a variety of reasons, ranging from rebellion and lack of faith to poor priorities and tangled relationships to substance abuse and addiction. It's time to ask Jesus to help in whatever way He chooses. 

Today, pray that He will enter the situation and intervene in whatever way is needed to restore you and your loved ones to fully functional servants of God. Today, leave the choice of interventional method to Christ and trust Him to do what is best.  

Monday, November 18, 2013

The unexpectedly Grateful Heart - part 16. Maggie sings the blues

You are probably not going to believe this, but it is absolutely true. I looked at Maggie and said, "What am I going to write about tonight?" I've had a very wild (and not completely fun) day. I wasn't sure I had anything to write about. Maggie responded by grabbing up her little squeaky toy that makes an outrageous sound. She can play a little tune with it and she sings to it. Arrrrough!! It's very wild and hilarious. We call it "singing the blues". If she's not getting the attention she deserves, she will sing the blues, which always garners an abundance of applause. When I least expect it, just to add some spice to life, she will sing. Tonight, she was right on target.

I know I have told you a few Maggie stories, but have I told you about all the tricks she knows?  In addition to singing the blues (admittedly a stellar trick), she can sit and stay, take it or leave it, drop it (unless it is a live chicken), shake hands, high five, dance like a ballerina, walk like a lady, and sneak like a spy. Sneaking and dancing are especially cute. Oh, I almost forgot! She can roll over and she can roll over three times in a row if you tell her. I think that means she can count to three. 

Have I mentioned that Maggie can herd cows?

She has wonderful tricks, but she also has a compassionate heart. When my mother was in her final illness, Maggie would sit on the bed with her and snuggle in as needed.  She willingly confined herself to my mama's bed during those last few days, and I will always be grateful for the comfort that little fur ball provided.  

Maggie the Wonder Dog IS a wonder! Smart as a whip and cute as a button! What a combo. 

Tonight, I'm thankful for that sixth day at the beginning of earth, when God decided to make some creatures.  Cows, horses, goats, cats, and dogs.  God made them all and pronounced them good. I've spent the last twenty-four years with quite a menagerie of these good creatures, and tonight I'm especially grateful that God graced me with such a wonderful, pastoral life. Of course, I'm also grateful for Maggie the Wonder Dog!

A Demon Comes to Church part ten

And the report about Him was spreading into every locality in the surrounding district. (Luke 4:37 NASB)

The people in the synagogue the day Jesus cast out the demon with a single sentence were absolutely astounded by how Jesus had accomplished the miracle and with such authority. The now-sane man was in their midst as proof. They could not stop thinking about what they had seen, and, according to this verse, they could not stop talking about it either. They told everyone they saw. The story of the synagogue soon became the talk of the town, and, as news does, spread to the neighboring villages as well. Even the people who did not accept Him as Messiah were talking about Him.  Everyone in the district was hearing about Jesus, His power, His authority, His miracles.  

Word of mouth is a tremendous way of spreading information, and in that time before cell phones and internet, it was a fast way to communicate news quickly. News of Jesus was everywhere and spreading. 

The thing about word of mouth is that it still spreads information today, and quite effectively. There is one requirement for effective transmission of news, however.  Those who know must tell it. Those of us who know Christ personally and have experienced His mercy and grace must share the good news if we want that news to spread. To whom have you spoken about what Christ has done for you recently?  

Today, pray for opportunities to share the news of Christ with those you encounter. Pray, too, that the believers our loved ones encounter will not hesitate to share what Christ has done for them, and that they will share it with unassailable clarity and complete confidence. Pray that, in the hearing, our loved ones cannot help but believe what they are told because of the evidence of Christ in those who share. 

Sunday, November 17, 2013

The Unexpectedly Grateful Heart - Part 15: Manna Soup

Our pastor was preaching from Exodus 16 this morning, which is the passage where God provides manna for all the people who had left Egypt with Moses. They were generally grumpy about food, and apparently very particular. The manna came down from heaven and they stood  around frowning, saying, "What's this?" That's how it came to be called manna, which means, "what is it?"  One of the reasons they didn't know what it was is that they were expecting bread, but this looked like coriander seed. Pretty different things, I'd say.

I was fixing a quick broth-based soup for lunch today and adding a pinch of this and a dab of that, as I often do. As I poured a round, knobby spice in my hand, I paused to read the label. I had picked up the coriander seed by mistake, but I tossed it in anyway in honor of manna. In fact, I laughed and named it Manna Soup. Yum! I've been pondering manna ever since 

Perhaps those Hebrew people were used to recognizable answers to their prayers and always getting what they expected. Maybe that's why the manna didn't look like God's provision of bread to them. I don't know about you, but it's not uncommon for me to ask God for something, expecting a particular provision, but receive an answer that is so different from what I expected that I almost overlook it. I've learned that, if the answer to my prayers seems slow in coming, maybe I need to look a little closer for an unexpected answer. I call that a manna answer. 

Maybe you have been praying for something but don't recognize the answer. Perhaps it's because your expectations have gotten in your way. Maybe you should look around again. Perhaps the manna is already on the ground. You just need to gather it. Start looking!

Today, I'm grateful that sometimes God sends exactly what I expect and sometimes He sends what I don't expect. The thing we have to remember about manna is that's it's "bread rained done from heaven". Heavenly bread. Now that is something for which we can be grateful!
Happy Thanksgiving!

A Demon Comes to Church part nine

And amazement came upon them all, and they began talking with one another saying, "What is this message? For with authority and power He commands the unclean spirits and they come out." (Luke 4:36 NASB)

Jesus was teaching in the synagogue on this eventful day. The demon-possessed man was shouting. Jesus turned His attention from the Scripture to the man and his demon. With a single sentence, really just two commands, He changed everything for the people of  Capernaum that day. "Be quiet! Come out!" He said, and the demon did. They had never seen anything like it before. Jesus spoke, the demon left, and the man was sitting on the floor in his right mind again. Wow! 

We can not really comprehend how astounded these people must have been, but imagine a screaming, raving, insane man in your church service, a command from the preacher, and the man is suddenly thrown to the floor and as sane as anyone else there. It was not just unexpected, it was unprecedented. 

There was no disputing the suddenly sane man's transformation, yet every person turned to the man next to them and began to say, "Wow! Did you see that? How did He do that? Who is this Teacher? How does He have the authority to cast out a demon?" No one had any answers, but there were plenty of questions and plenty of speculation. 

There were several things everyone agreed about. Jesus had cast out the demon. The man was sane again.  Jesus had an inexplicable authority and an unprecedented power. They were not yet sure what it meant, but they knew immediately that it MEANT SOMETHING. 

Jesus, filled with divine authority and divine power, astonished everyone present that day, not the least of which was the suddenly sane man. This entire exchange likely took only a few seconds. That's how fast Jesus can move to change a life forever. 

Jesus can still move in a matter of seconds to transform lives today. He is not limited by the type or duration of the sin or the unbelief. Jesus can move. Pray today that our Lord will move just as quickly in our loved ones and that, in a matter of seconds they will be transformed by the power of the Most High God and set free from all that enslaves them.